Exploring Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd
Exploring Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd

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You have spent quite a long time reading and analysing just one short chapter of Hardy’s comparatively long novel. If you were reading the whole book, how long do you think you would spend on that chapter? You may think that you would probably have finished it in about five or ten minutes – it’s only four pages long after all, and you might be keen to find out what happens next. But you have read ‘A Valentine’ slowly and analytically, paying close attention to the details and subtle nuances of narrative, and the way the character’s voices interact with each other.

Bathsheba’s reason for sending the valentine is mainly because she’s piqued at being ignored by Boldwood, but the chapter’s opening description of how dreary her house is on a winter Sunday afternoon also plays its part. The sense of boredom, of having nothing to do and only Liddy to entertain her helps to account for Bathsheba’s reckless act. Important though the descriptive detail is, if we are reading just to find out what happens next, we probably don’t really pay it a great deal of attention. But Hardy’s descriptions are worth close attention for they always contribute in various ways to the drama of the action. Novels like this really do one repay time invested in careful reading.

The idea of telling a story sounds quite straightforward, but a great deal depends on exactly how that story is told!

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course A233 Telling stories – the novel and beyond [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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